Gov. Nathan Deal has signed a bill allowing guns on college campuses.
After sounding positive about the most recent attempt by Georgia legislators to permit weapons carry license holders to conceal carry firearms on college campuses, Deal has signed House Bill 280 into law.
HB 280 made it to the governor's desk after passing both the House and the Senate after a rewrite on the final day of the legislative session at the end of March.
Under the law, any license holder 21 years or older will be able to carry virtually everywhere on campus, with a few notable exceptions. Those exceptions include student and Greek housing, property used for sporting events, preschool or childcare property, rooms used for "a college and career academy or other specialized school," room used for classes in which high school students are enrolled, or "faculty, staff, or administrative offices or rooms where disciplinary proceedings are conducted."
Many of the exceptions were added in the final version of the bill as a way to appease Gov. Deal, whose concerns about high school dual enrollment and daycare facilities were part of the reason for his veto of a similar bill last year.
However, in addition to confusion regarding the grammatical interpretation of the final exception, the bill has received criticism from parties on both sides.
Many proponents of campus carry argued the bill was too restrictive in its exceptions. The final version of the bill lost a handful of supporters in the House during its final vote as a result.
Several Athens area representatives, including Rep. Regina Quick (R-Athens), Rep. Spencer Frye (D-Athens), Rep. Chuck Williams (R-Watkinsville) and Sen. Bill Cowsert (R-Athens) voted against the final version of the bill for varying reasons. Quick expressed concerns with the "unclear exceptions" in the bill, while Cowsert said his vote was based on feedback from his constituents.
Meanwhile, those opposed to the bill held rallies and demonstrations across the state, with several college representatives speaking out against the bill. University System of Georgia Chancellor Steven Wrigley testified against the bill in the House and Senate committees, with University of Georgia President Jere Morehead endorsing Wrigley's stance.
The Faculty Senate of UGA's Franklin College of Arts and Sciences publicly opposed the bill in a statement in April, while students, faculty and Athens locals held multiple protests at the UGA Arch.
Protestors used Deal's lengthy veto against a campus carry bill last year as part of their call for his veto this year.
Even Georgia U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson denounced an earlier version of the bill in a town hall in March, saying he did not think the proposal was "the appropriate thing to do."
Multiple polls of the UGA community show roughly two-thirds of students and faculty are opposed to concealed carry on campus.
“It is altogether appropriate that weapons not be allowed in sensitive areas on college campuses, and I appreciate the thoughtful consideration given by the General Assembly in expanding these excluded areas within a college campus in this year’s bill,” said Deal in a statement. "As this legislation is more narrowly tailored as to exclude areas on a college campus, I’ve signed HB 280.”
According to the Office of the Governor, HB 280 prohibits the carrying of a concealed weapon by anyone, including weapons carry license holders, on the following areas of a college campus:
- Buildings or property used for athletic sporting events;
- Student housing, including but not limited to dormitories, fraternity and sorority houses;
- Any preschool or childcare space;
- Any room or space being used for classes related to a college and career academy or other specialized school;
- Any room or space used for classes in which high school students are enrolled through a dual enrollment program, including, but not limited to, classes related to the “Move on When Ready Act”;
- Any faculty, staff, or administrative offices; and,
- Rooms where disciplinary proceedings are conducted.